Thursday, 2 February 2012

Fare Thee Well Glynn Viv, Hurry Back Soon…

Fare Thee Well Glynn Viv, Hurry Back Soon…

Glynn Vivian Art Gallery redevelopment © Powell Dobson Architects

The Great Mother of the Swansea art scene has closed her doors for business awaiting a scrumptious new make-over in the shape of a multi-million pound refurb. Having dispersed her fairy art children throughout the city to continue their creative crusade in her absence, the Glynn Vivian awaits extensive redevelopment that includes complete conservation of the historical 1911 building.

Already feeling the loss? The good news is that it’ll mean tons more vibrant visual display spaces, a brand new lecture theatre and community room, and an inspired social space, complete with refreshment facilities and WiFi. The bad news is that we have to eagerly sit on our hands awhile as good things take time and patience, but do eventually come to those who wait! So as we anticipate the 2014 launch let’s reminisce upon some of the Glynn Viv’s recent best bits, and take an animated look at electrifying off-site events to come.

Primarily taking place in community venues such as the Central Library and YMCA, the gallery will continue to host its usual busy programme of art workshops, events, talks, film and live music. Speaking on behalf of the Glynn Vivian, Katy Freer promises an exciting collaborative project with Birmingham-based IKON Gallery to be shown at Swansea’s Mission Gallery in late 2012, as well as some thrillingly impromptu pop-up exhibits by local artists, up-to-date details of which may be found on the gallery’s new blog: But if you can’t wait, here’s some art-centric memorialising to get you all starry-eyed…
Maleonn Ma King of the Ridiculous, 2011
Recognizable for her 2006 Venice Biennale entry sculpture Beast, Welsh artist Laura Ford’s June 2011 exhibition, Beast and Other Works, was refreshingly unorthodox. Tactile and familiar with a strangely uncanny psychological undertone, it was a show that proved popular with visitors, creating an impending and substantial impression in the Atrium. Showing at the same time in the
main gallery was I Know Something About Love part ll, organised by Parasol Unit, London. Investigating themes of love (and loss) in diverse times and cultures, the exhibition included film and installation pieces by three artists: Yang Fudong , Christodoulos Panayiotou, and, a personal favourite, Shirin Neshat. The positioning of these two arresting shows together revealed an inspired piece of curatorship, as their respectively dark undercurrents offset one another nicely in a fluid spatial continuation of comparable themes. Similarly, Mark Wallinger curated exposition The Russian Linesman, 2009, focussed upon unsettling the limits of spectatorship. Flaunting mixed media pieces it interrogatingly distorted the boundaries between perceptions and reality, and accordingly proved a challengingly stimulating hit with visitors.

© Eva Bartusse
Taking a momentarily critical view, both of these shows are linked not only in terms of accomplishment, but in budget also. For great, long-running exhibits by internationally acclaimed artists require big bucks. The danger here, as always, is that national economic difficulties will inhibit arts funding, and thus exhibition quality will diminish accordingly. Tough times will inevitably call for radical measures if monotony and diminution are to be avoided. Inspired curatorialship and user-responsive programming are required if the Glynn Vivian is to retain her eminent position as Matriarch of our domestic arts scene. Because witnessing the plethora of supportive visitors who turned out to bid the gallery a fond farewell, the pressing public need for great arts resources in Swansea became vibrantly clear. So let’s hope the Glynn Viv delivers in rousing abundance upon her return!

By Jess Hughes